I remember watching a football game some time ago, professionals playing. The team with possession needed a big play. The receivers went deep, but they were tightly covered. They kept scrambling to get open, but the people covering them were sticking close. Meanwhile the quarterback's defenders broke, and the quarterback was dodging erratically to try to stay upright against the people who had gotten through the line. He was nearly tackled more than once. Still the receivers were scrambling to get or stay open. It's not an unfamiliar scene in football, but this particular down kept going, the scenario playing out longer than it typically does, so it stuck in my mind. The quarterback persisted and eventually found an opening -- and found one of the receivers who had shaken free of his pursuer by just enough. The quarterback completed the pass to the open receiver. Those who supported that team were elated at the victory. It was a game-changer, a momentum-changer -- but it was not luck. None of it would have happened if any of the players on the one team had given up. For such a physical game, that play had a large psychological element. The receiver trusted his quarterback, or at least still hoped. Hope was not delusion, it was a shrewd play.
It is not unusual to hear people mocking the idea of hope as wishful thinking, delusion, or mere stubbornness. Cynicism is often mislabeled as realism. I can relate: the one play from a long-forgotten football game stuck in my mind precisely because I thought it was silly that they were still trying after everything had clearly gone against them. I wondered if they would accept defeat graciously. They may have been mature enough to do that; I'll never know because they were professional enough not to assume a loss just because they had more obstacles than any one player could overcome. Even when we advocate for hope, it can be difficult to catch sight of that clear opening that we're fighting for. Sometimes it can be hard to believe that our effort makes a difference.
And yet it does. Our action -- based on our hope -- makes a difference to ourselves and to the people around us. Despair is a psy-op of evil. We live in a time when some rising causes of deaths are labeled as "deaths of despair" and yet people still mock hope. Depression -- in which a large component is adopting despair into the worldview -- is considered a major mental illness, yet people still manage not to consider the essentially healthy nature of hope.
The reason it is easy to lose hope is because it is easy to misplace hope: to base it on someone or something that will fall. But for those who trust in God, hope is a shrewd play.